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Raja Bhaiyya,always tough and usually indispensable in UP politics for BJP and SP

Raja Bhaiyya,the 'tough guy' image works well in the politics of UP.

Written by Faisal Fareed | Lucknow | Published: March 6, 2013 2:56:54 am

Raja Bhaiyya’s,also known as Raghuraj Pratap Singh,“tough guy” image works well in the politics of UP. His wealth,his lineage and his criminal record add up to the image that lures supporters to him,which in turn makes him a vital ally in politics. He is an independent MLA but three BJP and two Samajwadi Party chief ministers — Kalyan Singh,Ram Prakash Gupta,Rajnath Singh,Mulayam Singh Yadav,Akhilesh Yadav — have inducted him as a minister,despite the charges of murder,dacoity and abduction he has faced.

Raja Bhaiyya resigned as food and civil supplies minister on Monday after a case of criminal conspiracy was registered against him on a complaint by Parveen Azad,wife of murdered police officer Zia-ul-Haq.

Eight cases remain pending against him,including this one; there was a time when the count was 45. He traces his ancestry to the Bhadri dynasty of Oudh (Awadh); that is where “Raja” derives from. And a legend revolves around a pond on his property.

Locals remain convinced that the Beti Pond has crocodiles that feed on the bodies of his adversaries; Raja Bhaiyya dismisses this as a figment of their imagination. The Mayawati government had confiscated the pond in 2003,renamed it Dr Ambedkar Bird Sanctuary and handed it over to the forest department. Mulayam later handed it back to Raja Bhaiyya.

Five times an MLA from Kunda,Raja Bhaiya has often rallied independents together besides engineering splits in rival camps,particularly in the BSP. This is what earned him ministerial berths in five governments.

The resignation completed a reversal of the trend. Last year,Chief Minister Akhilesh had defended Raja Bhaiyya’s induction in 2012 on the ground that the cases against him were politically motivated; Akhilesh had also visited him in jail during the Mayawati regime. But last month,Akhilesh stripped Raja Bhaiyya of his prisons portfolio,before eventually getting him to resign.

“It is because Akhilesh has 224 MLAs that he could take the decision to remove Raja Bhaiyya,” says a senior SP functionary. Mafia leader-turned-MLA Akhilesh Singh and Mukhtar Ansari have both alleged that Raja Bhaiyya has been made a scapegoat. Raja Bhaiyya himself has said the police officer’s killers will never be punished as “the FIR against me is politically motivated”.

As a law student in Lucknow University,Raja Bhaiyya had made friends with Arvind Singh Gope,now a minister. Former classmates remember him as a shy youth who would paste Gope’s posters in the university elections. He was extravagant but a former classmate says,“We counted him as a friend,never as a raja.”

He contested his first election in 1993 from Kunda,a seat tailor-made for him. The family is well-known: Raja Bhaiyya’s grandfather,Raja Bajrang Bahadur Singh,was the first vice-chancellor of GB Pant Agriculture University and the second governor of Himachal Pradesh. Raja Bhaiyya tilted towards the BJP at one stage but has been backed by the SP for the past few years.

The first arrest was in 2002,when Mayawati was CM,after BJP MLA Puran Singh Bundela charged him with threat,a case later quashed in court. The same year,a raid on his house allegedly unearthed an AK-47 and a skeleton,supposedly of a scooterist killed in a collision with Raja Bhaiyya’s vehicle. In 2003,Raja Bhaiyya,his father Uday Pratap Singh and cousin Akshay Pratap Singh were booked under POTA,a case Mulayam scrapped in 25 minutes after he took over as CM,and who went on to grant Raja Bhaiyya Z-category security.

In 2004,R S Pandey,the police officer who had raided his house,was found dead,apparently the victim of a road accident. Raja Bhaiyya’s name also figured in the multi-crore-rupee foodgrains scam of 2004-2005,when he was food and civil supplies minister in the Mulayam government.

Thanks to his influence with the SP,he got his aide Yashwant Singh renominated as MLC in 2010 in place of Mulayam confidant Ram Naresh Yadav. He has other aides in key positions,while his cousin Akshay has been a Lok Sabha MP as well an MLC. When he stepped out to resign,seven SP MLAs,two MLCs and an MP accompanied him. After he quit,Mulayam and Shivpal Yadav were among those who called on him that night.

Of late,Raja Bhaiyya has sought to cultivate a Robin Hood image. As minister for prisons,he ensured many prisoners were admitted to hospital so that they could attend the weddings of their daughters.He arranged for sureties for the release of several others; one such prisoner,from Orissa,now lives at his home. He also organised an exhibition of paintings,some of these by Javed Khan,with whom he had made friends during his own stay in jail.

He loves to drive his own vehicle,but prefers a motorcycle within Kunda. His pets include dogs of various breeds.

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